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Ballet Talk for Dancers
Addie

Line between encouragement and pushing

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Addie

Hello all!

My son is now 9.11 and a first year dancer. He dances hip-hop, African, jazz, and modern w the professional dance company at his dance school and takes the required jazz/tap/ballet class there as well. He is also in his first gear at Boston’s ballet having been offered a scholarship. He never “wants” to do anything, I believe die to low self-confidence. He has even said he’s worried he’ll mess up and ruin the show and everyone will be looking at him. He ddn’t “want” to do the hip-hop class last year, but I made him go and now he loves it. He ddn’t “want” to audition for the professional company, but I made him do it and now he loves it. He begged me to let him do the Boston Ballet program, which I did. He ddn’t “want” to audition for the Nutcracker w Bostorn ballet, but I made him. He got a tiny part, and is now going around saying he dsn’t “want” to do it. 

What do you guys do about “encouraging” your dancing boys and what do u see as the line where it crosses from encouraging to pushing too much? I feel like if I dn’t make him do stuff, he won’t, and then he’ll miss opportunities. But I also dn’t want to push too much and he quit all together. Both his dance school teachers and BBS school staff have commented on his talents. But he’s so shy & is working on (& making great strides!!) overcoming stage fright. I’m torn!!!! Help!!!!

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Thyme

Well at the risk of sounding harsh, I don't believe in either pushing or encouraging. I am prepared to help, assist and move mountains when necessary but I am not a cheerleader.  My DS was also required to motivate himself.  I always let my DS (now 19) know that if he wants to quit that is (basically) just fine with me. There was always the caveat of he cant quit something he has committed to that would impact upon others if he quit. A performance for instance. Otherwise, I don't think that having talent should require someone to dance. 

I do understand that perhaps his ambivalence comes from shyness but I still think that dance requires an internal love. A passion. Talent is not enough.

Being a dancer is hard without that passion or drive. Especially for a boy.

my DS quit dancing for about 4 months (that's another story) but he returned when he wanted to. I credit a very special male teacher with making that possible.

In the end, it may be worth letting him miss out on opportunities at his age. If he truly decides he loves it, there are many more opportunities waiting for him.

If my advice doesnt appeal to you, perhaps he needs to narrow down on all the various dance experiences he is having? Perhaps finding one supportive teacher, one safe space for him where he can find his confidence would help? He is doing a lot of things.

I am sure you will get plenty of thoughts and reflections on your interesting question. Good luck!

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dancemaven

Just a Gentle Reminder:  This is restricted forum for parents of boy dance students only.  

Therefore, in keeping with our Rules and Policies, a well-meaning post had to be removed.

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Fraildove

Thyme, I couldn’t agree more. 

 

I know with my own son we have made it 100% his decision. We don’t push, beg, or force him to do anything that he isn’t self motivated to do. My husband and I are both ballet teachers and when he started dancing we made sure that he understood that this was his decision and that we will support him in it. But that if he ever wanted to stop that was also ok. Perhaps ask your son why he was so keen to try ballet. Allowing a child to focus on one or two forms of dance will allow them to gain confidence in what they can do, as well as allowing progress to happen much more quickly. It is a bit like the saying, ’jack of all trades, master of none’. Especially at such a young age. Ballet is the building block of all other forms of dance, and other forms can be added in the future without much setback. I would talk to your son and listen to him as to what and how much he wants to do. For dance especially a child has to have an inner drive. They have to love what they do and approach it on their terms. I know that can be hard as a parent, especially if a child is talented. But ever so much more is needed than just talent. Also, if he does suffer with stage fright, be careful. Pushing a child onstage in a high stakes performance can become a major setback for some children. I think helping children overcome their fears is very important. But with stagefrieght it has to be handled very carefully. The child has to be 100% confident in what they are dancing, and then needs to be ok to try. If this is not the case, a child will associate the stage with trauma and then will end up with a mental block. Not saying this was s the case with your son, but I’ve seen it happen to a few children. 

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Addie

Good morning,

Thank you both fornyohr responses. I don’t think your response was harshant at all Thyme. As a counselor I completely understand the risks of too much push Fraildove which is why I posed the question. It’s funny [you] mentioned “jack of all trades master of none” because that is one reason I try to encourage both of my boys to find something they love and stick to it. My parents allowed me to expire many things but I never became proficient in any one. I do not want that to happen with them! I am glad that he was assigned the role he has in the Nutcracker because it is a quick stage appearance with little actual dancing. So it gives him a taste. I think if he told me he did notnlike ballet, I would feel differently than him saying he’s scared to perform. [I don’t know]. I will have to take it slowly and see what he does with it. I would never drag him kicking and screaming!!!!! But I want him to learn commitment and perseverance. 

Thanks again for [your] valuable feedback!

Edited by dancemaven
Spelled full words per BT4D Rules and Policies.

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Fraildove

I think that no matter what is decided, you have only your sob’s Best interest at heart! The fact that you are searching for answers show that you are a very considerate mom and that you care greatly about how to nurture your son’s progress. Keep seeking information. And if your son is anything like mine, his feelings can change in an instant. Perseverance and commitment are two areas that as a teacher, I wish more parents would require of their children. It is so easy in this day and age to give up when results don’t happen quickly or when things are ‘hard’. I think your son will discover what he loves and I know he will feel supported when he does 😊

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5uptown

Addie, I have three kids (two younger daughters and a dancing boy). My middle child is very much as you describe, and it feels uncomfortable to me sometimes to insist a kid stick with something that they like and asked to do when they change their tune and claim you "forced" them to. The performance sounds perfect-- its normal to be nervous. Its good to do something a little outside your comfort zone. For my anxious/reluctant child, it takes more of a push from me to get her to stick with things, but its so good for her to work past that nervous moment where she wants to back out. That said, it does sound like he's doing a lot for a 9yo. If he continues to complain, perhaps sit him down and discuss his priorities. He has committed to the nutcracker role, and its a professional production-- then he really needs to stick with that. But if he wants to reduce his load of different dance styles, also be open to listening to him. My son is almost 14 and now more willing to take a variety of classes to supplement ballet (and he definitely sees the benefit), but at 9 I don't think he would have wanted to, and it might have turned him off entirely. He did seasonal recreational sports at that age, which were nice because they were only 9 or 10 weeks, and then he could take a break and try something else. 

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Addie

We have tried a number of rec sports- soccer, football, basketball, lacrosse, swimming, and he was doing competitive gymnastics before this. He is not interested in any of them. I mentioned dropping company (which requires Tues/Th 4-5:30 & the jazz/modern/tap class Sat 1:30-3. Ballet is Th 6-7 and Sat 12:15-1:15) and he went ballistic. He also cried actual tears when he found out he was not enrolled in the hip-hop class because they cover hip-hop in company, so he was allowed to add that class back. The director said they will see how he does and if it looks like it’s getting to be too much we would talk to him about dropping it. So we havecertainly looked at cutting back and he is having no parts of it. He complains about having to go, but then we when gets close he’s asking me to let him out and then I go find a spot on my own, or if there’s traffic, he wants me to let him out so he can run to the studio. He asked me one day on the way there can I get my coffee AFTER I drop him off. LOL! So yes, he certainly flip flops which makes it hard for me to know how he’s actually feeling! I also don’t want him to do things or continue only because he thinks EYE want him to.  But while he’s ambivalent I feel like an executive decision/nudge in one direction or another may be in order sometimes. I told him we will re-evaluate after this year. 

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MEWDancer

I have 2 dancers.  A DD and a DS.  My DS started taking a hip hop class at age 7 because we were spending so much time at DD’s studio waiting for her.  He loved it.  About a year later he agreed to try a ballet class that 4 of his friends (boys) were taking.  He stuck with it even when all of the other boys left for various reasons. We then relocated and DD started at a huge and serious company affiliated ballet school.  He did not want to continue ballet there so he quit.  He did however love hip hop and we spent two years searching for a tween boy appropriate hip hop class (never thought it would be so hard in a large city!).  We finally found a great boy’s class.  He loves it and it is only once a week but some days he grumbles about going.  I “make” him go and he always says it was fun when he is done.  My son is one who requires a little bit of nudging sometimes.  I would not call it pushing, he just would often rather be on electronics.  If it is something we have paid for a certain number of, I don’t let him quit until the commitment is over.  If he hates it we don’t do it again.  We have also always had a rule that our kids have to be enrolled in at least one physical activity.  I know he doesn’t like to be over-scheduled either.  So once a week hip hop works great for him.  At this age DD was up to 4-5 days a week of dance.  I think you have to know your kids and what works for them.

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5uptown

Oh boy Addie,  this all sounds so familiar to my second kid (girl). Who is also 9. In your case,  as he is giving serious mixed signals, you can just remind him that you're signed up for stuff and expect him to finish the commitment... discuss with him when its time to reenroll/etc. And just remember that he is young and has time later if you end up deciding to dial back a little. My more anxious/introverted/reluctant kid definitely has some performance anxiety issues and it was good for me to realize that and helps me be a little more firm and empathetic when she's complaining or using various delaying tactics. 

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